MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka announced Wednesday that he is stepping down from his role in leading the Senate Republican Caucus, perhaps signaling that he’ll soon join the race for governor.
In a statement to his colleagues, Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) wrote that outside of his family and faith, leading the caucus has been the “most rewarding experience of my life.” He listed a number of accomplishments for Senate Republicans over his five years in leadership, such as cutting income tax for the first time in two decades and winning back-to-back Republican majorities for the first time in state history.
“These accomplishments were possible because we stuck to our principles and communicated directly with the people of Minnesota,” Gazelka wrote. “Again, I’m so very grateful for the work we’ve accomplished together and believe the caucus is in a very strong position to be successful in the 2022 session and the subsequent election.”
Gazelka plans to be part of the party’s success, but he wants someone else to helm the Senate caucus as he pursues “the next chapter in my political life.” Gazelka did not elaborate on what that next chapter would be.
Earlier this year, Gazelka told reporters that he was considering running for governor in the November 2022 election. Were he to get the party’s nomination, Gazelka would likely face a re-election bid from current Gov. Tim Walz.
Four other Republicans are already in the race: State Sen. Michelle Benson, who joined the race Wednesday, physician and former state senator Scott Jensen, Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy, and Neil Shah, a doctor.
A Republican has not won a statewide race in Minnesota since Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who was first elected in 2003 and served until 2011.
Speaking to WCCO Radio on Wednesday, Gazelka said that he’s leaning toward running for governor, reiterating what he told host Chad Hartman last week.
“I’m still in that place,” he said. “I’ve been out at the [Minnesota State Fair] every day, talking to the folks at the fair. I want to get through that and then keep moving forward. So that’s where I’m at.”
With Gazelka stepping down as the leader of the Senate Republican Caucus, the GOP will need to elect a new leader from among their ranks. The next time they are in chamber, the entire Senate will vote on the selected candidate, with only a simple majority needed for confirmation. Senate Republicans have enough votes to confirm their pick without any DFL votes.
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